Kruzel to coach Surprise hitters in 2012 AFL

Quad Cities River Bandits hitting coach Joe Kruzel will have the same job in the Arizona Fall League.

When the Arizona Fall League announced its team structure and staffs for the 2012 season late last week, there was one opening on the coaching staff of the Surprise Saguaros. Their hitting coach was coming from the St. Louis Cardinals, but his identity was yet to be disclosed.

We have learned that man is Quad Cities River Bandits hitting coach Joe Kruzel. The 46-year-old is understandably pleased to have been given the opportunity.

"I am honored to represent the Cardinals in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in its 20 year anniversary," Kruzel said. "I will have the pleasure of not only working with players in our organization but some of the top players in other organizations as well."

Along with Cardinals prospects in the 2012 AFL, Kruzel will tutor young hitters from the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox. The Saguaros manager will be Jason Wood of Myrtle Beach (A-Advanced, Rangers), with Jim Brower of Kane County (Class-A, Royals) serving as pitching coach.

"I am very excited for this challenge and looking forward to the experience," Kruzel concluded.

"Kru" is in his fifth year with the Bandits and seventh as a minor league coach following a long collegiate coaching stint.

Prior to joining the Cardinals, Kruzel spent two seasons in the Cincinnati Reds system – as hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Reds in 2006 and manager of rookie-level Billings of the Pioneer League in 2007.

The Ohio resident has long-time ties to the University of Toledo program. He played second base for the Rockets from 1985-1988, then spent four seasons as assistant coach before serving 11 seasons as their head coach.

The annual prospect showcase is scheduled to get underway on Tuesday, October 9 at six MLB spring training sites in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The Saguaros will play their home games at the Royals' and Rangers' spring base, Surprise Stadium. The league's daily schedule will be released in early August, followed by rosters later in the month.

As always, The Cardinal Nation and will provide full coverage of the 2012 AFL to subscribers, including eyewitness reports, interviews, photo and video.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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